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These articles appeared Thursday, May 2, 2002, in Vol. 2, No. 86
Jo Stuart
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An ox carries a sign
A.M. Costa Rica photos
Imperialism still is the enemy.

They all had complaints
May 1 brings out a multitude of complaints to the Labor Day parade. 
See story HERE

Handcuffed cop

First Avenue muggers snag three in one night
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

At least three more English-speakers became mugging victims Saturday on the stretch of Avenida 1 between calles 9 and 5.

No one was known to suffer serious injuries, but one victim said that he has a very serious heart condition that could have been aggravated by the mugger.

The crimes seem to be the work of the same band of muggers who have patrolled that short stretch of street seeking out tourists and other English speakers, as well as Costa Ricans, for at least a year.

The gang kept a low profile for about three months, perhaps practicing their work at coastal tourism locations.

None of the three persons attacked Saturday is believed to have filed a police report. In addition, a Costa Rican said he had his cellular telephone snatched from his belt along the same stretch of avenue the same night.

The muggers typically work in the evening between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.  The current victim who spoke about his experience only felt one mugger. But the gang usually works as a trio.

The one victim reached by A.M. Costa Rica said he has lived in Costa Rica for 24 years and has 

traveled extensively in Latin America. He said he lost $200 in U.S. currency and the equivalent of $200 in colons when the mugger dragged him to the ground with a chokehold and stole his wallet about 7:55 p.m.

"I didn’t see anything," the man said. "Whoever is doing this here are experts." Like most mugging victims he did not want his name used nor did he report the crime to police.

The man said he was not drunk, although he had had some drinks at the New York Bar on Avenida 1. The mugging happened about two blocks to the west after he had crossed to the south. He said the experience has left him fearful and "profoundly disturbed." He said the realization and the fears crashed down on him two days latter. 

A check of the area much frequented by tourists later Saturday night showed that no police officers were stationed there. Officers who came to the scene of earlier muggings generally have been described as unhelpful and as discouraging the filing of reports.

A bar owner in the area, himself an earlier victim, said that the police presence has diminished nearly to zero since the Christmas season and national elections. He said the gang usually hangs out at Calle 5 and Avenida 1 although sometimes they are not visible. They may also use motor vehicles, said the owner.

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Palestinians get support
from workers, students

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The international workers day parade Wednesday ended with a pro-Palestinian note that was evident throughout the whole event.

A coordinating group asked what remained of the marchers about 1 p.m. to sign a letter asking Costa Rica to move its embassy out of Jerusalem. A number signed.

The pro-Palestinian group, some dressed in black, were a surprise addition to the march, which also promoted traditional worker causes. At least two separate groups had taken up the "Holocaust Palestino" theme. Many were University of Costa Rica students. That theme dovetailed nicely into some general anti-American complaints.

Among these were concerns about globalization and a fear of economic slavery to First World countries. One group of students depicted Uncle Sam as the operator of a Costa Rican marionette which kept a half-dozen peons in line.

One marcher displayed a U.S. flag with the words "burn me" scrawled across a corner.

Also on the hit list was Plan Colombia, which some fear is an effort by the United States to ship more arms to that beleaguered country. Some marchers were Colombian refugees who said they have formed an association to fight discrimination against them and to seek equal working conditions. The Costa Rican government has said it wants Colombians, refugees or not, to have a visa now.

Two years ago the unions defeated a government privatization plan by President Miguel Angel Rodríguez. They called the plan the "energy combo." Now anything that is bad is called a "combo." Wednesday it was the "fiscal combo" that drew a lot of protests. One group called the new tax plan unveiled two weeks ago "the axle of the attack against the masses by the next social Christian government of Pacheo."

Educators, of course, were out in force to fight turning some educational authority over to the municipalities. Other workers did not want their special pension funds to be lumped in with others. 

Employees from the Judicial Investigating Organization wore handkerchiefs and ski masks to hide their identity. They also wore handcuffs to show they did not have the supplies and tools to do their job.

The Asociación de Padres de Familias Separadas en Costa Rica, a new group, protested the existing family law.

An organization from Talamanca said they were protesting the fact that the government gave a monopoly to do mechanical inspections of automobiles to a Spanish firm.

The Palestinian supporters asked the government to urge Israel to mediate its conflict with West Bank residents and to urge Israel to abide by a number of United Nations resolutions designed to bring peace to the troubled Mideast. Only a few countries have their embassy in Jerusalem.  The marchers Wednesday said they wanted Costa Rica to move its legation to Tel Aviv.

A.M. Costa Rica photo
A young woman carries the Palestinian flag before a barrier erected by Costa Rican police to keep Labor Day marchers from reaching the National Assembly building.

They also wanted Israel to give back land it took after the 1967 war, the so-called Six-Day War that Israel launched when it became clear that Arab states were about to attack. 

The marchers went east on Avenida 2, starting a little late about 10:30 a.m. from Parque Las Mercedes. But they couldn’t get to the national Assembly building where newly elected deputies were meeting to name an assembly president. Police had blocked off the street just west of the building.

Rodriquez gives 
his swan song

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Miguel Angel Rodríguez gave his final report to lawmakers Wednesday, and he warned that his plan for fiscal reform was vital to the nation.

He also went so far as to make a small book out of his report so it could be distributed. The president said that in his four years he has outlined a new model of development capable of producing in Costa Rica of the 21st century the same effect that the production of coffee had 180 years earlier and lifting human development to levels never before reached in history.

Conservative Costa Ricans are suspicious of the fiscal plan because it would establish a lot of new taxes. Foreigners do not like the possibility that the government would take foreign income.

Rodríguez also outlined a long list of successes in the fields of health, personal security, education and development of the infrastructure. He took credit for building the Tempesque River bridge being constructed as a gift to Costa Rica by the Taiwanese government.

Among security items he listed the joint anti-drug patrols the country is making with the United States.

Before he spoke, the new deputies held seven votes to elect as president Rolando Lacle Casto of the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, the same party as Rodríquez and incoming president Abel Pacheco. Lacle, 63, is a four-time veteran of the assembly where members cannot hold two consecutive terms.

New museum open
at old rail station

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has a new museum, el Museo de Formas, Espacios y Sonidos, at the former rail terminal for the Atlantic line at Avenida 3 and Calle 21. 

The museum is being billed as something different because visitors are invited to touch and experience the displays. The opening Monday represented the culmination of three years of efforts by the first lady of the republic, Lorena Clare, who with her husband, President Miguel Angel Rodríguez, inaugurated the museum.

The museum consists of three big rooms. The first, "our hands know the arts," contain sculptures from the Museo de Arte Costarricense and provides instructions in different artistic techniques.

The second room, "music to feel," contains 26 different instruments laid out as if they were in a symphony orchestra. The third, "we know the history with our fingertips," contains models for Parque Central, the old Atlantic station and other important historical sites.

The building was the former railroad museum and was redone at a cost of 45 million colons (about $128,000). The money came from the InterAmerican Development bank, a number of ministries and private corporations.

April was record
for A.M. Costa Rica

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A.M. Costa Rica continues to grow. April was a record for the number of persons who read material on the daily English-language Web site.

A report from an independent statistical program that monitors Web traffic shows that the newspaper recived 155,617 hits during April, a new record. 

The program also logged 17,121 "sessions," that is visits by people who stay for longer periods of time and browse the various pages of the newspaper.

In March, which has one more day than April, the statistical program logged 154,118 hits and 15,566 sessions.

Colombia certified
for human rights

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States will provide the Colombian military with about $62 million in aid after the State Department has certified  that the Colombians have met U.S. congressionally-mandated human rights requirements.

At a May 1 briefing, State Department officials said the  $62 million represents part of the $104 million provided by Congress for the Colombian military, based on Colombia's progress in such areas as suspending military officers who are credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights or who are suspected of aiding or abetting paramilitary groups. 

The rest of the funding would be released no earlier than June 1 if it is determined that the Colombian military is continuing to show progress in the area of human rights.

Chavez foes and allies
out on Caracas streets

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Thousands of supporters and opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have marched in Caracas, the first demonstrations since last month's deadly street violence and failed coup. 

Demonstrators returned to the streets Wednesday, 20 days after Chavez backers and opposition marchers clashed in violence that left 17 people dead and many more wounded. 

More than 1,500 police and security forces were deployed to prevent a repeat of last month's violence. The earlier clashes led to the brief ouster of Chavez, who two days later was swept back into power by loyalist troops. 

Wednesday's opposition march in downtown Caracas was organized by the country's largest workers' confederation, the Venezuelan Workers' Union. The group remains solidly anti-Chavez despite his attempts to reach out to his opponents. 

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